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Iran Revolutionary Guards commander: no plan for invasion

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards General Rahim Safavi has stated on Iranian television that he does not believe that the US is planning a military offensive against Iran.

In recent weeks, some Western journalists have claimed that the US and British governments are plotting to invade Iran via the Ahwazi Arab majority province of Khuzestan. In a recent article entitled "The Next War: Crossing the Rubicon", British-Australian journalist John Pilger claims that "Pentagon has no plans to occupy all of Iran, it has in its sights a strip of land that runs along the border with Iraq. This is Khuzestan, home to 90 per cent of Iran's oil." His "evidence" consists of an editorial in Beirut's Daily Star newspaper and claims by the Iranian regime of British involvement in the Ahwaz bombings, although no proof has been published. Others have even argued that the Ahwazi rights movement is being supported by Western governments as a vanguard for an offensive to capture Khuzestan's oil wealth.

Safavi said that "currently there is no military threat against our country," and accused the US of running a psychological war on the issue of Iran's nuclear programme. He did not mention Khuzestan, indicating that the regime did not believe that the province was an issue in the context of US policy towards Iran. His statement undermines conspiracy theories that suggest a link between the Ahwazi movement to invasion plans.

However, the regime continues to maintain that the British are fomenting ethnic unrest among Ahwazis to threaten its hold on power. This claim is denied by Ahwazi groups who state that land confiscation, human rights abuses, social inequality and cultural repression are the principle causes of anti-government demonstrations. Several leading Ahwazi groups have condemned all forms of political violence in Khuzestan.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "In parts of the Western media there have been concerted efforts to malign the Ahwazi movement. The legitimate Ahwazi rights movement has been portrayed as a tool of some nefarious plan to conquer Iran. Not even the most hard-line elements within the regime, such as Safavi, are seriously considering the notion that the Ahwazis are part of an invasion plan, even if they do claim the unrest is inspired by the British - a claim that is without foundation.

"Such groundless conspiracy theories alienate and insult the Ahwazis, who represent a popular democratic force in Iran. The Ahwazis don't need the British to tell them when to stand up for their rights. They don't need the British to train them how to wear keffiyeh. Ahwazis are not dogs that perform tricks for foreign masters.

"It is time to listen to the Ahwazi voice of reason instead of conspiracy theorists who effectively act as cheerleaders for state terrorism. Progressives across the world have to ask themselves whether they wish to sacrifice their principles on the basis of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' or support the democratic struggle against a right-wing militaristic racist and theocratic regime. Sacrificing principles would be an act of betrayal against the poor and oppressed, such as the Ahwazi Arabs.

"Are the Ahwazis less worthy of support than the Palestinians simply because they are oppressed by a government that is hostile towards the US?"